U.S. live cattle futures slide as cash hopes dim

Chicago Mercantile Exchange live cattle futures slid on Thursday in anticipation of steady to weak cash prices, analysts and traders said.

Sell stops exacerbated futures’ losses in response to the pullback in wholesale beef prices.

CME live cattle October and December ended 0.775 cent lower at 125.225 cents and 129.125 cents, respectively (all figures US$).

Cash cattle bids stood at $121 per hundredweight (cwt) against $125 asking prices from sellers, feedlot sources said .

Last week, cash cattle in Texas and Kansas moved at mostly $123/cwt, and $124 in Nebraska.

Packers may have enough pre-contracted cattle to avoid spending more for supplies on the open market, traders said. And processors are less likely to raise cash bids given tepid beef demand, they said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture quoted the wholesale choice beef price Thursday morning at $196.14/cwt, down 42 cents from Wednesday. Select cuts dipped 14 cents to $181.99.

The prospect that less costly feed might prompt ranchers to increase the size of their herds dragged down far CME live cattle contracts.

Chicago Board of Trade new-crop December corn futures closed down 8-1/2 cents per bushel at $4.61 amid expectations for a record-large fall harvest.

USDA monthly export data showed beef in July at 264.6 million lbs., the highest so far this year. It was up 12.9 per cent from June, and up 14.7 per cent from the same period a year earlier.

“We are focusing our resources there (Asian markets) to maximize opportunities to serve the growing demand in the region,” U.S. Meat Export Federation CEO Philip Seng said in a statement.

CME feeder cattle fell on technical selling and the lower live cattle market.

September feeders closed at 156.75 cents, down 0.275 cent, while October ended 0.45 cent lower at 158.8 cents.

Hogs firm after volatile session

CME hogs maintained some of their early session gains helped by futures’ discount to the exchange’s hog index, which was at 91.77 cents, traders and analysts said.

October hogs closed 0.275 cent higher at 89.4 cents/lb., but down from its new contract high of 90.525 cents.

December settled up 0.075 cent at 85.925 cents after posting a new contract high of 87.2 cents.

CME hogs vacillated throughout the morning, stirred by cash hog and wholesale pork values that turned lower on Thursday after both markets rose late on Wednesday.

USDA on Thursday morning quoted the average hog price in the most watched Iowa/Minnesota market at $87.41/cwt, $2.93 lower than on Wednesday.

Some packers need hogs for a big Saturday slaughter to make up for Monday’s holiday downtime. Other hog buyers balked at raising cash bids in the midst of a seasonal increase in supplies.

Thursday morning’s government data showed the wholesale pork price, or cutout, at $95.50/cwt, down $2.35 from Wednesday.

The cutout was largely pressured by the $8.57 plunge in prices for pork bellies, which are made into bacon, as the summer bacon-lettuce-tomato season winds down.

Spread traders bought nearby hog futures and sold deferred months with the view that cheaper corn might lead to increased production.

U.S. pork exports in July were at 406.6 million lbs., up 1.9 per cent from the previous month and up 2.1 per cent from July 2013.

Pork exports were led by the continued rebound of the Mexican market and strong variety meat demand in the China/Hong Kong region, said USMEF’s Seng.

— Theopolis Waters reports for Reuters from Chicago.

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